June 19, 2015
The Paradox of Our Success
Collegiate athletics is at a crossroads. The complexity of the major challenges and issues facing us is daunting. But one thing bolsters my confidence in the future, and gives me a sense of great pride about the present – the fine work our students are doing not only on the field, but in the classroom and in the community.
We are extremely proud of the students who participate on our athletics teams. While many in the public and the media tend to dismiss or forget it, all of us who work in collegiate athletics at The University of Alabama are acutely aware that we are in the business of helping students reach their full potential, on and off the playing fields and courts.
Our coaches, obviously, place great importance on teaching strategies, tactics and philosophies to help our students reach their potential athletically. But they also clearly illustrate how discipline, values and lessons learned in being successful in sports are applicable to other areas of their lives. The administrative staff in our department at Alabama is also driven and passionate about what they do. In many ways, it is truly a calling. We are unified in our primary desire to help students become productive people in everything they undertake, and to see them graduate from The University of Alabama. We implemented a program last year that is aimed at proactively working to follow and support their interests and goals after graduation. I would like to see our A-Club, our letter winners in all sports who are located all over the world, get or stay connected with the University and form a network that would enable them to communicate with, and support, each other for life.
Pride, Commitment and Pursuing our Mission
We take our Mission seriously and challenge our staff regularly to think about it in every decision we make as a department. As has been stated here many times before, our Mission is to recruit and develop students to compete at the highest levels in all sports; to educate and prepare those students to compete at the highest levels in life after graduation; and to do both with honor and integrity. I am very pleased to share a number of facts about the recently completed 2014-15 academic year with you. Please read through this carefully, as it is information that should not only make you very proud of the Crimson Tide, but that you also may find downright amazing:
Grade Point Average
- The overall cumulative grade point average (GPA) of our more than 500 student-athletes in 2014-15 was 3.031. A total of 41 current student-athletes have a 4.0 cumulative GPA. Over the last two years, 87 current-student athletes have had a cumulative 4.0 GPA. Five of our teams had cumulative GPAs above 3.5 for 2014-15, the fifth straight year to have at least five teams above that threshold. Twelve of our teams had cumulative GPAs above 3.0 for 2014-15. Over the last two years, our teams have achieved a cumulative GPA above 3.0 a total of 27 times.
- 92 students who are Crimson Tide athletes graduated in 2014-15.
- The graduation rate for student-athletes is currently 71 percent while the graduation rate of the general student body is currently 66 percent.
- For the second consecutive year, Alabama football led the nation in graduates on its roster for postseason play in 2014 with 22. This is not a new trend. In fact, our last 3 national title teams (2009, 2011 and 2012) included 60 players who had earned their degrees prior to game time. From 2009 through the 2014 season, 117 Alabama football players earned their degrees (undergraduate and graduate) while still active on the Crimson Tide roster.
- Our Graduation Success Rate (GSR) jumped to 91 this year, which leads the SEC. The GSR spans the period covering students who attended the University during 2004-07. In addition to leading the SEC with its overall GSR, the Crimson Tide was first, or tied for first, in seven different sports, including its two-time NCAA champion men’s golf team which led the league with a perfect GSR score of 100.
- Our 2014 football team was recognized as one of the nation’s top academic programs, ranking third in the annual academic ranking of the top 25 college football teams produced by New America, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
- Of all the teams participating in postseason bowl games in 2014, Alabama led the nation with seven players already having earned their master’s degrees while tying for the national lead in number of graduates on the roster.
- In December, 22 student-athletes received their degrees, including 14 members of the football team led by Arie Kouandjio, who was named a Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2014.
SEC Academic Honors
- In 2014-15, Alabama student-athletes won the SEC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year in four sports (men’s basketball, women’s tennis, women’s softball and soccer) after winning in five sports in 2013-14.
- Crimson Tide students have won 20 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in their respective sports in the last five years (2011-15).
- Nine Alabama students have earned the SEC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, which spans all sports offered by the league, since 1987.
- So far, 114 students earned SEC Academic Honor Roll status (48 in the fall of 2014; 66 in the winter of 2015. The SEC’s spring list is slated for release in July.
- In 2013-14, Alabama led the nation in Academic All-Americans with 13 (a school record). With 11 honors to date during the 2014-15 academic year (there is the possibility of two more Tide athletes earning the honor), Alabama has produced 102 Academic All-America honors since 2000, which ranks third nationally over that span behind only Nebraska (127) and Notre Dame (120). Alabama passed Penn State this year (94). Stanford rounds out the top 5 with 92.
- We rank first in the SEC since 2000 in Academic All-American honors with 102. Alabama has averaged more than 10 per year over the past four years. In 2015, Levi Randolph became the first men’s basketball player in our history to earn First Team Academic All-America honors.
- Gymnast Kim Jacob was the Academic All-American of the Year for all sports for 2014, and the third consecutive Alabama student to win the honor (Brook Pancake in 2012; Barrett Jones in 2013).
- With Haley McCleney earning the 2015 Capital One/CoSIDA Softball Academic All-America of the Year honor, the Crimson Tide has now had a student-athlete serve as the Academic All-America of the Year for their respective sport each of the last six years.
- From 2011-14, Alabama had an SEC-best 20 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship awardees (second nationally, one behind Stanford). A school-record seven student-athletes earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships in 2014, a total that led the nation.
- The NCAA Elite 89 Award goes to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average at the finals site of each of the NCAA’s 89 championships. Alabama has produced 14 Elite 89 Award winners from 2009-15, tying Stanford for the national lead. No other school has more than 8 over that span. Crimson Tide gymnastics has won the first six for its sport. Lauren Beers was the 2015 NCAA Elite 89 Award winner for gymnastics, her second consecutive honor. No team other than the University of Alabama has ever won an Elite 89 Award in the sport of gymnastics.
- The NCAA Today’s Top 10 is given to 10 college athletes from the preceding academic year who have brought distinction to themselves, their schools and college sports. Honorees must be a varsity letter-winner with a minimum GPA of 3.2 who has completed their intercollegiate eligibility during the previous academic year. There is no set male-female ratio and at least one winner will be selected from both Divisions II and III. The honor recognizes exceptional athletics ability and achievement, academic achievement, character, leadership and extracurricular activities including community service. Alabama students have won 13 NCAA Top 10 Awards, including 10 over the last 13 years.
- The 2014 men’s track & field team was the Indoor Scholar Team of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
- The 2014 women’s swimming & diving team posted the nation’s highest team GPA for the fall 2013 semester.
- Gymnast Kim Jacob won the 40th annual Honda Cup as the Collegiate Women Sports Awards Athlete of the Year last July. Kim was one of 12 women from 12 different sports under consideration for the prestigious accolade that honors the best collegiate NCAA Division I female athlete in the nation over the past academic year, and she is the first Crimson Tide student-athlete to be a finalist and the first to win the Honda Cup.
- Emma Talley was honored as the national women’s golfer of the year earlier this month by virtue of earning the 2015 Honda Award for the sport. Emma earned this latest honor just days after winning the Crimson Tide’s first individual NCAA golf championship. She is the fourth Alabama student to earn a Honda Award in the past five years, following Kayla Hoffman (gymnastics 2011), Brooke Pancake (golf 2012) and Kim Jacob (gymnastics 2014).
- Last August there was a piece on ESPN.com in which the Crimson Tide led the nation in a rating of college football programs judging the ability to balance academic results and on-field outcomes called “ESPN Grade”, a new way to evaluate college football polls. The ESPN Grade report determines a top-25 football program’s ESPN Grade by combining its ranking in The Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls, then adding its position in a top 25 sorted by football graduation rates. Alabama ranked number one in that assessment.
- We won two SEC team titles during the 2014-15 academic year – football and gymnastics. Our single-year record is four, accomplished in both 2009-10 and 2013-14).
- In 2014-15, four of our 17 sports teams (two men’s, two women’s) finished their seasons ranked in the top 10 nationally and nine of our 17 sports teams (three men’s, six women’s) finished their seasons ranked in the top 20 nationally.
- Individually, six student-athletes brought home five individual NCAA championships: Kristian Gkolomeev (men’s swimming – 100-yard freestyle), Remona Burchell (women’s indoor track – 60-meter dash), Emma Talley (women’s golf), Maya Janssen and Erin Routliffe (women’s tennis – doubles) and Quanesha Burks (women’s outdoor track – long jump). That’s one of the finest years in our history.
All of this success has been built on the foundation of our tradition of excellence and our legacy of champions while following the tenets of our ongoing Mission. It is the result of the work of a great many people. Ultimately, however, it is the students (our student-athletes) who make it all happen. We are so very proud of all of them!
Another NCAA Champion: Congratulations to Quanesha Burks!
Quanesha Burks is a small-town girl who is also small in stature, but her competitive drive reveals a heart as big as Bryant-Denny Stadium. Last week at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Quanesha showed the nation what an outstanding competitor she really is when she won the NCAA championships in the women’s long jump.
A native of Hartselle, Alabama, Quanesha entered the meet as the favorite, having won the SEC outdoor title in May and going unbeaten in five competitions over the course of the season leading up to the NCAA meet. She also had the nation’s longest jumps to her credit. But she knew her task would not be easy. Two outstanding competitors from the University of Oregon tested Quanesha as the event unfolded. The young ladies from Oregon were competing in front of a boisterous sellout home crowd of more than 11,000 at historic Hayward Field.
After taking the early lead through the first two rounds of the six-round competition, Quanesha fell to second place when Oregon’s Jenna Prandini took the lead in the third round. Another Oregon Duck, Jasmine Todd was close behind along with Kentucky’s Sha’Keela Saunders, who bumped Quanesha into third place in the fifth round with an excellent jump of her own. With the crowd roaring and the pressure on, Quanesha gathered herself in the fifth round of six and leaped 22 feet, 8 inches, to win the event. The other athletes couldn’t overtake that mark, which ranks among the top 10 in the world this year and gave Quanesha the first NCAA women’s long jump victory by an Alabama athlete.
She came through like the champion that she is, and I loved something she said after winning: “I am just so thrilled to win this title with Alabama on my uniform!” Quanesha is only a sophomore, but she has already found a significant place in Crimson Tide history. She has a 3.65 grade-point average in Elementary Education, to boot! Keep an eye out for her in the coming years, not only while she competes for us over the next two seasons but, also, on the international scene.
Sewell-Thomas Stadium Update
I am very pleased to report that the new Sewell-Thomas Stadium construction project is progressing on schedule for completion this fall. There has been significant progress over the past couple months, including the addition of the canopy structure atop the main grandstand over the last few days. The roof is a very distinctive feature that brings back memories of the great baseball stadiums from the past. The concourses, dugouts and locker rooms have all begun to take shape, and it’s always great to see something become reality after looking at the conceptual designs on paper for so long. I think you will be very pleased with the new facility, particularly the spacious concourses and all of the other amenities that will be coming to fruition in the coming weeks and months.
Work is about to begin on the brick veneer on the outside portion of the stadium, and new field sodding is also ready to be started. This week, curb and roadway work will began on the east side of the stadium. Again, we’re very excited about how the project is going and even more excited about what we are building. This is a great time for all of us to rally behind Coach Mitch Gaspard and our team as we move into a new facility.
Welcome Dr. Stuart Bell
I would be remiss if I didn’t report what a privilege and pleasure it has been for me to serve under Dr. Judy Bonner these last two years. She is truly a classy lady who loves the University and I deeply appreciate how much she did to support our athletics department and me personally. I wish her well as she enjoys a well-deserved sabbatical before returning to her first love, teaching. I had the pleasure yesterday to meet and visit with our new President, Dr. Stuart Bell. Everything I have heard about him to date has been good and, after meeting him, I can understand why. He clearly is a high-energy gentleman with an exciting vision for The University of Alabama. I look forward to working with him as he leads our University into the future.
Signing Off Until August
It’s been quite a year! I’m going to take the next few weeks off from the blog to slow down a bit (hopefully) and get a respite before beginning the 2015-16 academic and athletic year. We are winding up our budgeting process and finalizing plans for the 2015-16 year. After serving you in that role the least two years, I can fully attest to the joys and challenges of the job. It truly is a labor of love, and a way of life! It has been a blast for Mary and me.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. Working to achieve our Mission provides purpose and motivation every day. Helping our people through their struggles and seeing them triumph in so many ways is gratifying in ways I cannot adequately describe. Being in a competitive endeavor provides so many thrills and memorable moments. I am looking forward to much more of that in the coming year, and I cannot wait to get started on the many initiatives we are pursuing, as well as seeing ambitions like the new Sewell-Thomas Stadium become a reality.
It’s approximately 78 days until we kick off the 2015 football season against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. I hope you have a terrific summer and, as that summer runs its course, please ponder ways in which you can be a part of helping us reach our goals. Your support makes the difference for Alabama, and that support comes in many facets. We need your presence at our events, your prayers for our people and programs, and wherever feasible, your financial support to insure our future successes. I hope you will spend part of your summer considering how to be a more productive part of our program.
A rising tide lifts all boats and it really is up to all Alabama supporters to Keep the Tide Rising!